Seeing that it is merely days after Austin Psych Fest, I thought I’d take the time to talk to an APF veteran band, Elephant Stone. Rishi Dhir, the band’s front man and the neo psychedelic scene’s go to sitar player was kind enough to talk about his experiences as a musician. Dhir has played with iconic independent bands like The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Black Angels and The High Dials and has created a powerful and positive reputation with his musical peers, and loyal fans.
You’re sought after sitar player in the neo psych scene. How does it feel to be like the Canadian Ravi Shankar of our times?
RD: I am very flattered with the comparison… however, I am VERY far from reaching the level of influence/artistry/genius that Pt. Ravi Shankar brought to the world. I am just a guy that is functional on sitar and has been blessed to know and befriend so many great musicians and bands that all share common musical tastes.
What makes your psychedelic-hindie-rock music so unique?
RD: I have a very clear idea of what Elephant Stone is. I guess our ability to psych-pop with droney Indian Classical structures/sounds definitely makes us stand out in the crowd…
How does your Indian background combined with your western Canadian upbringing influence your music and yourself as an artist?
RD: My Indo-Canadian upbringing has played a huge role in defining my musical vision. Being from two different cultures you’re always trying to reconcile their differences and see where they both meet. For instance, from a young age I was listening to The Beatles, the who and the doors while at the same time absorbing Bollywood music (Via my parent’s Saturday movie nights)… I guess subconsciously, I would try to see the common ground both music worlds shared. I guess that’s pretty much what I’m doing with Elephant Stone…
While you were studying classical Indian musical when you left The High Dials yet you still found you were doing 60’s stuff like the Kinks and The Beatles, how did you reconcile these two styles in your head and eventually find your current sound?
RD: I actually picked up my first sitar in 1996 and started taking lessons seriously in 2000. Once I left the High Dials in 2006 I decided I had had enough of rock and roll and just wanted to go down a more “serious”/classical route and focus on the sitar. I had the idea that I would start making more fusion/world music along the lines of Ananda Shankar. However, in the end, I absolutely love pop music (Teenage Fanclub, The Beatles, etc..), so our first record was a balancing act of raga-rock and power pop (or as I call it, Hindi Rock).
Your band name is quite clearly a reference to the song by the Stone Roses and I heard it is also a reference to a literal stone that you own: a statue of the Hindu god of new beginnings, Ganesh? Is that correct? Ganesh does have the head of Elephant in pantheon of Indian gods mythological figures… Would you say the band name is another metaphor for the fusion of your love of Indie music and your Indian roots sitting side by side together?
RD: Ganesha is the god of new beginnings and good fortune. For all marriage ceremonies or when beginning any new endeavors (new job etc) you always pray to Ganesha. I wanted to include some of that imagery for this band, so I wanted it to be Elephant something…. Then it wasn’t too far of a stretch to add Stone as a nod to my love of britpop/madchester.
You’re back touring with the The Black Angels again before APF6 and you were at APF5? How would you describe your relationship to the Angels? Common musical vision? Have you got a funny story while being on tour with them?
RD: Yeah, I’ve performed at the last two APFs (solo sitar as well as along with the Black Angels and BJM) . I’ve known the Angels since before they started the band… our roots go deep and we consider each other as family. We definitely share a common musical/philosophical/life vision.
I had a good run with them last year and got to travel to a lot of amazing places…. I guess me getting to play with Beck in Australia was pretty amazing… It was nice to my friends (alex, christian, steph, kyle, brett and myles) cheering me on while I played Loser:)
You have a new self titled release out from this year? What is your new EP called? What is your new sound like and what direction musically are you reaching for in it?
RD: The album sounds like everything Elephant Stone is.
Interview by: Jordannah Elizabeth